Mon. Sep 26th, 2022

Hoe cartoonachtig het originele <em>warcraft</em> as may be, not every DOS era RTS game inspires a <a href=filming.”/>

enlarge / Cartoony like the original warcraft may be, not every RTS game from the DOS era inspires a film adaptation.

The rise and fall of real-time strategy games is a strange one. They evolved gradually from experimentation to combine the excitement and speed of action games with the deliberateness and depth of strategy. Then the genre suddenly exploded in popularity in the second half of the 1990s – only to fall out of favor (StarCraft aside) just as quickly during the 2000s amid cries of stagnation and a changing gaming market. And yet one of the most popular competitive games in the world today is an RTS, and three or four others are in a genre branching off from real-time strategy.

At 25, the real-time strategy genre remains relevant to his ideas and legacies. And with it deep in silence, now is the perfect time to give it the same in-depth historical treatment we’ve already given to graphic adventures, sims, first-person shooters, kart racers, open world games and city builders.

Before I start telling the history of the genre, some quick ground rules: As in all these genre histories, I want to emphasize innovation and new ideas, which means that some popular games can be covered up and [insert-your-favorite-game] maybe not mentioned at all. For the purposes of this article, a real-time strategy game is one where base building and/or management, resource gathering, unit production, and semi-autonomous combat are all performed in real time (rather than turn-based) , with the aim of gaining/maintaining control over strategic points on a map (such as the resources and command centers).

I also want to emphasize that tactics and strategy are not the same, which is why this article will not spend much time discussing real-time tactics games like the Total War and Close battles series. For those unaware, strategy refers to high-level plans, while tactics focus on the finer points of execution of specific objectives. In more explicit video game terms, strategy is building and managing armies from the buildings you add to your base with the resources you mine/harvest; Tactics is simply the combat material, with deep battlefield mechanics focusing on unit formations and positioning and exploiting terrain features to your advantage. Real-time strategy usually contains some element of tactics, but real-time tactics rarely contain strategic mechanics.

Now, with that said, let’s start by traveling back some 36 years.

Action meets strategy

The distinction between “real-time” versus “turn-based” strategy is relatively new. Before the mid-1990s, strategy games were turn-based, while action games were real-time, never, no, rarely, as you will see – the two will meet. They were incompatible, contending ideals of game design, the former being rooted in the rich tradition of complicated and intricate tabletop wargames, and the latter being a simple, mostly straight-forward test of reflexes and coordination, its roots in the video game arcade. Strategy was methodical and slow, all about careful planning and weighing every decision. The idea of ​​adding a real-time element to force players into instant, impulsive decisions was virtually unheard of. More than that, it was considered the antithesis of strategy.

But that’s exactly what Don Daglow did with his influential 1981 Intellivision game Utopiawhich is arguably the earliest ancestor of the real-time strategy genre. Utopia pitted two island nations against each other in a war that not only required you to infiltrate and/or destroy your opponent to undermine their attempt at utopia, but players also had to build a happy and thriving home base. You had to think about infrastructure, production, military, weather patterns, spies, pirates and the knock-on effects of each decision. As if that wasn’t hard enough, life on and between the two islands continued unabated in every moment of indecision: pirate raids, hurricanes, wilting crops, rebel uprisings and more.

Other “action strategy” games soon followed, each with its own idea of ​​how these two types of games could be combined. The following was important Cytron Masters (1982), by acclaimed designer Dan Bunten (later known as Danielle Bunten Berry), who later described Bunten as “falling into the gap” between action and strategy players. (Side note: After her 1992 transition, Bunten Berry referred to her pre-transition self with masculine pronouns, so I’ll do that too.)

Despite the commercial disappointments, Cytron Masters played as an early prototype of the RTS concept. There were five semi-autonomous unit classes, covering your attack, defense, and battlefield communications, along with several power centers that provided more energy (the game’s only resource) and allowed you to build more units. The entire game took place on a single screen, with players starting on either side of what looked like a football field, except instead of goalposts you had command centers. You could see your opponent’s commands being given and executed in real time, in addition to your own.

ZX Spectrum War Game stonkers (1983) and that of Chris Crawford legionary (1982) began a push toward more of an action-tactics style of play. stonkers‘ Traditional wargaming’s restrained, graphically detailed, fast real-time customization of the combat phase has garnered much praise, but a handful of game-breaking bugs hampered its sales. legionary met a more mixed reception for its light, semi-historic simulation of battles between the Romans and barbarians. The real-time tactics genre (aka RTT) was born here, but it would have to wait until next year The Ancient Art of War– a best-selling and influential computer warfare game – for its moment in the sun (and, like its RTS sibling, it took many more years for RTT to actually be recognized as a genre in its own right).

Meanwhile, Nether Earth (1987) further established the basic concept of what would become the RTS. You created robots that could conquer or destroy six types of factories needed to produce the components that allow you to build more robots. The end goal was to destroy your opponent’s war base(s) by blasting it to smithereens with a nuclear weapon aboard an unlucky sacrificial bot. You could directly control robots one at a time, but in general it was best to order them to destroy, capture, kill or defend them and focus on making more of them to keep the to overwhelm the enemy.

Another Dan Bunten game, Modem Wars (1988), had more of a tactical emphasis, but had many of the elements that eventually became central to real-time strategy. It included a war fog that prevented you from seeing enemy units out of sight of your units/buildings, along with espionage, customizable unit formations, and terrain influenced movements and combat. The game’s methodical pace allowed many things to happen at once without being overwhelming (a lesson many later RTS games failed to heed).

By akfire1

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